In This Review

Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years
Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years
Edited by H. E. Chehabi
Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, 288 pp

Students and practitioners of Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy turning to this work for knowledge about Hezbollah and its ties to Iran will not be disappointed. Several chapters set out the Iranian involvement in the sociopolitical awakening of Lebanon's Shiites, personified by the Iranian cleric Musa al-Sadr and epitomized by the emergence of first Amal and then Hezbollah. But the chapters treating earlier years and other subjects should not be skipped. The several other kinds of ties between Lebanon and Iran are, admittedly, best described as distant. There was the important movement of Lebanese Shiite clerics that solidified Iran's conversion from Sunnism to Shiism in the sixteenth century, but that influence dropped off thereafter. The other connections cited involved only small numbers -- a few clerics moving back and forth between the two countries (or, in modern times, a few Iranian students, businesspeople, or religio-political exiles). Nonetheless, these chapters offer a rich serving of microhistories that describe Lebanese-Iranian ties over time, ties that, while distinct, fit into the larger Middle Eastern pattern of juxtaposed religions, ethnicities, and nationalities.